HAPPILY EVER AFTER

BY MADRIPOOR ROSE

CHAPTER ONE: RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

Disclaimer: The X Men are the property of Marvel Entertainment. This is a work of fanfiction, no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Spoilers for Astonishing X Men up to 14 and Colossus Bloodline.

Kitty was starting to worry. After the X Men had returned from the Breakworld, where Ord learned an important little lesson about self-fulfilling prophecy...Peter had been acting strange. He was painting again, which was a good sign. Painting almost obsessively, which was not.

She'd caught him having a serious conversation in the Blackbird hangar with Logan. Neither of them would tell her what they'd been talking about. Even admitting her concerns to Logan and giving him the Bambi-eyes treatment, lower lip trembling as she confessed that Peter was brooding and it was scaring her didn't work. Logan would just tighten his mouth and tell her that she had nothing to worry about but he didn't want to get involved.

The sex was still amazing, but she kept waking up alone in bed, and she didn't like that one bit.

The day Peter went into New York without her was the last straw. She slouched around the mansion, terrorizing the students since she couldn't enjoy what was supposed to be her day off, and plotted revenge.

At bedtime, she brushed her hair a hundred strokes until it fell over her shoulders in a silken veil of copper-shot burnished bronze. She touched perfume to the hollow of her throat, between her breasts, the inside of her wrists, and behind her knees. Then she slipped into an ice-blue satin negligee.

And curled up in bed with Lockheed, a bag of Cape Cod White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn, and Naomi Novik's Throne of Jade. She fed Lockheed popcorn and read aloud to him. They were at the part where Captain Laurence and Temeraire had just reached China and the court of the Celestial dragons.

An hour later than the time she usually went to Peter's room to fool around, there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," she called, and took a deep breath as the door opened and Peter stood silhouetted in the doorway.

"Katya...it's twelve thirty..." he trailed off.

"Is it?" she asked innocently. "I lost track of time." She set her book down on the bed beside her, and sat up a little straighter, stretching her arms over her head. Then rolled her shoulders, and watched Peter's gaze drift to her cleavage in the deep V neckline of her nightgown.

"Shall I join you, tonight?" he asked huskily, and took a few steps toward her, confident of an affirmative answer.

"I don't think so." The hurt, confused look on his face almost made her relent. "I'm not really in the mood. And I wanted to finish rereading Throne of Jade. Okay?"

"Okay," he said quietly.

Kitty threw the covers back and sat up, making sure the fall of the sheets and the hiked up skirt of the negligee made an enticing display of her bare legs all the way up to mid-thigh as she got out of bed, then walked over to him. She put her arms around his neck, bounced up on tiptoe, and kissed him goodnight. A deep and passionate kiss.

Then she pulled away, turned her back, and went back to bed, picking up her book. "G'nite."

"Sleep well, Katya," he said helplessly, and closed her door behind him.

Kitty tried to find a little escapism in the historical fantasy intrigue, but she found herself rereading the first trip into the city, and the dragon translating for his captain as Laurence tried to buy a porcelain vase with British gold three times without following it. She put the book down again.

"Damn it," she said softly. She'd meant tonight as a wake-up call. Vamp it up, tease him, remind Peter of exactly what he had, and remind him that two could play at this withdrawing game. And yes, he was doing what she said she wanted. But part of her had hoped that he'd make the next move. "Damn him. He's shutting me out again. There's something going on with him, and he won't talk to me. He won't let me help. Lockheed, I've been chasing that man since I was thirteen years old, and I finally caught him...so why do I feel like I should tag along after him and do something outrageous to get his attention?"

Lockheed, half inside the popcorn bag and munching happily, didn't answer.

That was all right. It was a rhetorical question.

"And to be clear, Katya. You are not crowding me...nearly enough."

She saw Peter at breakfast the next morning. Then there were classes. She caught up on her grading and lesson plans at lunch. After dinner she had a counseling session with one of the students, and then she went to Peter's room.

He was sitting at the easel, brush in hand. She frowned, and walked over to his bed, flopping down. At least the canvas was a bucolic pastoral scene and not another nightmare self-portrait. To her surprise, Peter finished his happy little tree, and packed up, putting the paints away and wiping his hands.

"You have finished your book?"

"Yeah."

He came over and sat beside her on the bed. She climbed into his lap and kissed him, very thoroughly. He pulled back, cupped her face in his hand, and looked into her eyes. Kitty let out a small, involuntary sigh of relief at the feeling that he was really seeing her this time.

"I know I have been self-absorbed these past few days," he began apologetically. "Forgive me if I have been inattentive?"

She kissed him again.

"I've been doing some thinking," he smiled. "I know, I am the brawn of this operation and I should leave all the thinking to you, since you are a genius," he joked, "but there was something I needed to work out."

Kitty nodded. Crowding him without smothering him. Crowding him just enough. So all she asked him was, "did you get it figured out?"

"Da, I think so, yes."

She wondered if it had anything to do with Breakworld, and Ord's idiot Timeshadow readers misinterpreting the X Men fighting amid chaos on the Breakworld, so they sent Ord to destroy mutants and the X Men which pissed off a new mutant terrorist group enough to steal a spaceship and invade Breakworld so the X Men followed to fight them amid chaos...

Two years of imprisonment and torture as Ord's scapegoat due to something that fundamentally stupid was enough to depress anyone.

"So...we're okay?" she asked tentatively.

"We're okay."

"Okay. Cool." She started pulling his shirt off. They undressed each other, kissing, stretched out on the bed together and made out, then Peter moved to the foot of the bed and transformed. The bed creaked ominously, but held.

Kitty began to grin. The first time they'd done this, Peter had been delighted to learn that none of her other boyfriends...that there was still a special first they could share. When he'd transformed, Kitty'd made a comment that he was kinkier than she'd expected. Since Peter returned and they requited their relationship, she'd heard a couple of crude comments from the students. Speculation on power sex and an organic steel partner. Peter had raised his eyebrows and reminded her that he didn't need to breathe while armored.

She closed her eyes and snuggled back into the pillows while Peter hooked her knees over his shoulders.

"Hold on, Katya."

"Hey, I'm very good in bed, I hardly ever fall out any more," she protested in the same playful tone.

Later, she reciprocated with a phase job. Phasing back and forth rapidly so the firm grip of her fingers wrapped around him dissolved and reappeared in a pulsating massage that reduced Peter to broken whimpers of pleasure.

They lay together, quietly sharing the afterglow. After a while, Peter spoke again. "I've been painting, and rebuilding my portfolio. Yesterday I went into the city and made the rounds. Peter Nicholas' contacts at the galleries, to see if they are still interested in my artwork."

"Were they?"

"I still have a foot in the door," he sighed. "It will not be easy, but I think I could make a living from my art, if I worked at it."

"You do paint a purty pitcher. So...exploring your options? That's the thinking you've been doing?"

"Thinking about the future." Peter shifted beside her on the bed. She kissed the nape of his neck, because it was there. "I'm not sure I will always be here at the school. There are other things I want in life, and now that I have a second chance, I mean to pursue them."

Kitty's stomach turned over. He wanted to leave the school? "Like what?" she asked, uncertainly.

"I'd like to paint. Live a normal life...or what passes for such. A home of my own. Maybe an apartment in the city, maybe a small house in the country where I could have a garden." Peter took a breath. "Children...someday."

"I can just see you with eight kids climbing all over you yelling, papa, papa."

"Eight?" he laughed.

"Four boys, four girls, a nice even number. What? I thought you wanted a large family."

"Da. But since you would be mama, how many children do you want, Katya?"

A warmth spread through her. "Hmm. I had it all planned out when I was thirteen...wonder if that notebook I wrote all over the covers of is still in the attic...two. A boy and girl. Andrei and Anastasia."

"Anastasia?"

"Thirteen! Now, I'll grant you, I realize that Anastasia Petrova Pryde-Rasputin sounds like the heroine of a bad historical romance novel."

"Stasia," Peter said thoughtfully. "Stasia Petrova, you stop that this instant!"

"Aw geez," Kitty sighed. "I shouldn't have told you."

"I like it."

"Because you are a gigantic goofball," she informed him. "Yeah, two kids, close in age because being an only child stunk sometimes. Maybe more, depending. If Andy and Annie are twins, they'll want a little brother or sister to torture."

"So, three children, maybe four?"

"Yeah. And I know it isn't exactly a Russian name, but I'd kind of like to name a son after my dad..." Okay, Kitty, she told herself, you're getting way too serious about a bedtime game of Let's Pretend We're Playing House.

"We don't have to give the children Russian names, though I do like Andrei and Anastasia," he said quickly.

"So, Andy and Stasia are running around, Carmen's in his crib, you're painting, where am I? Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen making borscht?"

"Where would you like to be?"

She thought about it. "Huh. I never finished college...I was going for an engineering degree. I wouldn't mind going back to school. After that...we could be a real modern family, you could stay home with the kids while I continue to be an X Man?"

"If you'd like."

"And maybe when the kids are a little older...politics. The first female Jewish mutant President."

Peter chuckled. "You would be very good for the country."

"Hey, if you're gonna dream, dream big," she quipped.

He said, quietly. "And you know, any children of mine will have part of Rasputin's soul."

Kitty snorted. "Lilith. Ogun. Any children of mine are likely to have a genetic predisposition toward being possessed too," she sighed. "At least they won't die in a sentinel-run concentration camp this time around. The world's never been safe, Peter. We love them, we teach them right from wrong, we train them to be competent adults, and we hope. That's all parents can do."

He kissed her, and she kissed him back, and she completely forgot about their pillow talk.

A few days passed. The X Men went to help with some emergency flooding, and joined the Fantastic Four fight another one of the Mole Man's creatures that came up in Central Park. Aware of what had happened the last time, Reed Richards invited them to join his press conference afterward, and it went pretty well until Johnny Storm ignited Wolverine's hair.

At the school, Kitty had exams to give and grade, and counseling sessions. Some of the kids were still having trouble with the Danger AI and Wing's death. And the usual trials and tribulations of being a mutant teenager.

Adolescence is tough enough without suddenly sprouting antlers or developing the ability to excrete an inky fluid from your pores.

She and Peter still weren't spending a lot of time together, except at night, but they'd talked. They were both just busy.

Kitty was trying to catch up on some much needed maintenance on the school's computer system when one of the students came in.

"Miss Pryde? Um, Mister Rasputin was looking for you, upstairs. He wanted you to meet him out by the lake."

"Okay, thanks Harry." She finished what she was doing, and then headed out to find Peter, wondering what was up. Breakstone Lake was still on Xavier property, but far enough away from the school itself to ensure privacy. It was a little late in the year for skinny-dipping, though, even for her Siberian born boyfriend.

She had a moment of uneasy deja vu when she spotted him, sitting on the bluff overlooking the lake, his knees drawn up and his arms wrapped around them.

"I think it's only fair to warn you," she announced as she walked over to plop down beside him, "if you brought me out here to tell me that you met a girl on the Breakworld...I'm pushing you off of this cliff."

"What! No!" he looked startled, glancing around as if he only now realized where they were sitting. "Nyet. I just wanted to talk to you..."

"So. Talk," she said agreeably.

"No. I'm sorry, this was stupid. It's nothing, this wasn't important. I can wait. Somewhere."

Kitty's eyes narrowed. Semi-coherent babbling was her thing. He was the strong silent type, and when she was nervous, she chattered like one of Doreen's squirrels that had gotten into her Nutty Buddy candy bar stash.

"I think you should tell me what's on your mind." And that line brought a much nicer sense of deja vu.

"I love you."

"That's nice, sweetheart. I love you too. Now talk."

Peter gave her a sheepish grin, fished in the pocket of his leather jacket, and silently opened a small gray velvet ring box, holding it out to her.

Kitty looked. A plain elegant diamond set in gold.

Ooh, pretty, she thought.

And then it hit her.

A diamond ring.

Peter brought her out here to give her a diamond ring.

Peter had a long talk with Logan. Peter found out if he could support himself with his painting, and talked to her about children and the future.

And then Peter brought her out here to give her a diamond ring.

"Oh my god," she whispered.

"Katya...Katherine." Peter visibly steeled himself in a way that had nothing to do with mutant powers. He took a deep breath and started what appeared to be a well-rehearsed speech. "We've known each other since we were children, we were both children, even though you were wise beyond your years and I was a naive and callow youth. We've been friends, lovers, enemies...we broke each others' hearts, and out of the pieces, rebuilt a heart we could share. Share it with me? Marry me?"

"Oh my god," Kitty said again and Peter's face crumpled. He looked away, and so he missed it when Kitty lunged at him in a full body tackle and kissed his breath away. The ring box went flying, tumbling to land a few feet away, thankfully not over the edge of the cliff.

Peter relaxed into the kiss. It was a long, sensuous kiss, and when it was over, Kitty grinned down at him. "That was a yes, by the way."

"A yes?"

"Yes, Piotr Nikolievitch Rasputin, I will marry you. Just to be clear," she replied in a throaty purr. "I'll promise to love, honor, crowd you just enough, pester you while you're trying to paint, cheer you up out of bad moods, and give you children."

Peter kissed her again, and smiled up at her. "And I promise to love, honor, obey..."

"Obey?"

"Da."

"Obey wasn't on my list."

"I am not a fool, Katya."

"Nope. Hm. Obey."

"Cherish," he kissed her again, lightly, "try not to worry you so much, tease you out of your temper tantrums, do my very best to drop you through the mattress at least once a week, and be a good father to our children."

Kitty kissed him again, then rolled off and crawled over to retrieve the ring box. "Let's make this official."

She stood. Peter knelt before her, took her hand in his, and brushed a kiss across her knuckles before slipping the ring on her finger.

"Why don't we go back up to the school and celebrate?" he suggested, getting to his feet and brushing at the grass stains on his knees.

"A private celebration. Let's not tell anyone for a couple of days, okay?" Kitty asked.

Peter frowned. "If you wish. Logan already knows."

"Yeah. I guessed you talked to him about this. We don't have a lot of privacy, Peter. I want this, us, to be ours for a little while. Just us, just you and me. Then I'll shout it from the rooftops."

The corner of Peter's mouth turned up. "A private celebration?"

"You, Piotr Rasputin, are a romantic sap. I know you went to Gourmet Grocers this morning and you have champagne and caviar waiting."

"And some of those cheese things you like so well."

Kitty beamed. "See, I knew there was a reason I'm marrying you."

"Ah. And here I thought it was for my body."

"Oh, the bod's a bonus, but I fell in love with the whole package."

XxXxXxXxXxX

Scott Summers frowned, looking out his office window. Kitty and Peter were walking toward the house, hand in hand. Kitty broke the grip to dance in front of him, jogging backward. Laughing, Peter caught her up in his arms and kissed her, then started carrying her toward the house.

Without looking up from the computer, Emma Frost drawled, "Leave them alone, darling."

"How can we enforce rules against public displays of affection among the students if two of our teaching staff are climbing all over each other?"

"Peter just proposed and they're still rather giddy. Let them bill and coo for a few days, before the soul-deadening reality of marriage sinks in."

"Aw Emma, you're such a romantic."

"A realist, darling. Just don't congratulate the happy couple yet. They aren't announcing their engagement for a few days."

Scott turned his frown on his girlfriend. "And how did you know?" There was no answer, and Scott sighed. "Em, do we HAVE to have the personal boundaries talk again?"

She raised a delicately shaped eyebrow. "Privacy is just keeping well-intentioned secrets. You of all people should be aware of what secrets and good intentions has done to the team?"

Scott had no answer for that.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Kitty left Peter singing in the shower, and went to find Logan. Passing a couple of the kids on the stairs, she turned the stone of her engagement ring in toward her palm.

You just couldn't keep a secret secret around here, but Kitty was determined to try.

Logan was in the garage, working on his bike.

Kitty just leaned against the workbench and smiled.

"So. You two are gettin' hitched."

"Yup. Wanna see the ring?"

"Petey showed me after he bought it. Nice rock."

"It is, isn't it. And whadja two talk about?"

Logan snorted a laugh. "You ain't letting this go, are ya, half-pint?"

"Nope. I'm nosy, and I'm persistent, and the sooner you tell me, the sooner I'll go away."

Logan wiped his hands on a rag and got to his feet. "Kid just wanted a little reassurance that you wouldn't kick him to the curb if he asked. And that it was the right thing to do."

Kitty smiled. "And if you approved?" she asked softly.

Logan shrugged. "He knows that if he hurts you again, he's gonna wish we left him in Ord's rumpus room. But yeah. You make each other happy, you should be together. And I told him that when you guys set the date, I'll be best man or give you away, whatever you want."

"I think I'd like it if you gave me away. Since this is all your fault, y'know."

"My fault?"

"Oh...I seem to remember someone literally throwing me at Peter in the Danger Room. Over and over. Ya big hairy matchmaker you."

"What can I say? I'm a romantic at heart," the government-created mutant killing machine said, deadpan.

Kitty couldn't help herself. She hugged him.

"Aw, no, I'm a mess," he chided her, but hugged back. "You call Ororo yet? Or Rach?"

"Nope. Peter and I are keeping it to ourselves for a while. You know how weddings flip everybody out. I think I will tell Storm next. Just the most important people in our lives."

"How about your ma?"

Kitty froze and looked away. "Yeah. I'm probably going to have to tell her that I'm getting married, huh?"

"She's your mom, she'll probably want to know, yeah." Logan studied her for a long moment. "Hey, you don't have to call tonight. Like you said, weddings flip people out, and the mother of the bride flips higher than everybody. Take yer time. Have a nice long engagement, call her when you're ready to set a date."

Kitty smiled slightly. "No, she'll really flip if I leave her out. And she is my mom. But I'll call in a couple weeks."

"Well. There you go, then."

"Logan?"

"Yeah Kitty?"

"Peter and I are going to get married."

"And I'm real happy for ya, punkin."

"I just...kinda need to say it out loud. I can't believe it's real."

XxXxXxXxXxX

After showering and making his bed, Peter left his room and headed downstairs to the art studio to get some work done. Final projects were trickling in from his students, and he had grading to do. A few of the kids showed talent, but none of them were interested in art as anything but a hobby.

It took longer than it should because he kept getting distracted with daydreams of his Katya. She'd said yes. He'd finally worked up the nerve, and she said yes.

For a long time he'd worried that marrying Kitty and having children would be selfish, that it wouldn't be fair to her, or their children, with the threat of Rasputin's Curse. Despite Mikhail's urging that he sire a large family to water down the bloodline again, before his brother sacrificed himself...maybe it would be better to live a solitary life, and when he died the bloodline would end.

And yet, he had always wanted children. And didn't he deserve to be happy?

Life was dangerous. Their lives, more dangerous than most. And if he had learned anything in his time in the X Men, it was that the future wasn't set in stone, and fate and destiny were fluid.

So he'd started painting, so he would have something to show, and started making the rounds of the art world in New York. There had been a brief period, when suffering from amnesia, he had called himself Peter Nicholas and was living in the city. Working as a building superintendent and painting. It had been his growing acclaim as an artist that allowed the X Men to find him and restore his memory.

There was an encouraging amount of interest in his art. It wouldn't be easy, but the possibility of earning a living if they left the school...of making his own way instead of living off Xavier...was there.

It had taken a bit more courage to approach Logan.

The feral mutant had appointed himself Kitty's father figure not long after the girl joined the team. Years and the loss of her father had only strengthened their bond.

Peter had found Logan in the Blackbird hangar. Not that the Canadian was doing any work on the jet plane. It was one of the places on the grounds that Logan went to hide when the students were getting on his nerves.

"Logan, may I have a word with you?" Peter had asked after finding the Wolverine sitting on a lawn chair with his feet up on his beer cooler, reading a Sports Illustrated. "It is about Katya."

"What about Kit?"

Peter had leaned against the wing of the Blackbird...so he could run, if necessary. "Katya and I have been together for a little over a year. Though I have loved her for much longer. I think it is time...I made an honest woman of her, as the saying goes. I want to marry her."

Instead of the explosion he'd been half-dreading, Peter had been treated to one of Logan's rare, genuinely delighted smiles.

"You're finally gonna pop the question? Well hell, it's about damn time."

"You understand, Logan, that I came to you in her father's place, to ask your blessing." Peter had said quietly.

"Russkie...you and Kitty, nobody else can make either one 'a'you happier or more miserable. If that ain't the definition of true love, I'll eat my hat. Congratulations, kid. Help yourself to a brew."

That was when Kitty oh so innocently wandered in, oh so innocently asked what they had been talking about. Over. And over. And over. And over.

Later, Logan had taken him away to Harry's Hideaway for that celebratory beer.

It had taken Peter a few days to work out how to propose. He wasn't an eloquent speaker, so he'd drafted several versions of asking her before settling on one that sounded romantic and corny enough. He'd bought the ring. Spent the night placating a disgruntled Kitty who had noticed his preoccupation, and sounded her out about kids and the future.

He was still kicking himself for proposing on the same bluff where he'd broken up with her, so many years ago. But she had said yes.

She had said yes.

He and Katya were getting married.

He stared into space for another twenty minutes, a foolish grin on his face, then shook his head and went back to work.

XxXxXxXxXxX

To Be Continued